John Fugelsang, filling in for Eliot Spitzer on Current TV this Thursday, had similar issues with a recent Gallup poll on those self-identifying with the term pro-life as Slate's Amanda Marcotte who wrote about that same poll in her column here: The Problem With Polling About Moral Beliefs:
Another year, another Gallup poll on abortion for anti-choicers to misleadingly represent in a bid to deceive the country into believing they're winning in the court of public opinion. Of course, Gallup shares the blame for this travesty, since it publishes its polling results with a lead about the poll that asks if people identify as pro-choice or pro-life. Inevitably, "pro-life" polls well, much better than it would if it were more accurately phrased as "anti-choice" or "anti-abortion," because it's a fuzzy-wuzzy term that deliberately distracts from the legal and sexual freedom issues at the heart of the abortion debate. This year, the poll found that 50 percent of Americans relate to the empty term "pro-life," and only 41 percent to the term "pro-choice."
But if you actually bother to read on, you'll find that Americans are still majority pro-choice, which is why the direct abortion ban in South Dakota and the personhood law in Mississippi went down when put to an actual vote. Scrolling down, you find that only 20 percent of Americans support the anti-choice movement's goal in banning abortion, with 25 percent of Americans supporting abortion rights in all cases, and 52 percent of Americans wanting abortion legal with some restrictions. (Most people imagine a legal regime that will somehow allow abortion for themselves and their friends, but disallow it for those dirty sluts they hear about so much.) This means that only two out of five people who identify as "pro-life" actually align themselves with the so-called pro-life view, demonstrating neatly how useless that term is and why it needs to be replaced with a more accurate term like "anti-abortion," or my preferred term "anti-choice," which encompasses their anti-contraception activism alongside their anti-abortion activism.
Polling Americans on vague beliefs and self-identity doesn't really tell us much in general beyond highlighting how delusional and/or hypocritical our nation is. The reality is that there's a huge gulf between what people claim to believe—even when speaking anonymously to a pollster—and what they actually believe, which is easier to measure when looking at behavior or what kind of policy choices they support. Read on...
John Fugelsang's take below the fold.